Day 228: Taxi, bus, taxi, plane, taxi, boat, walk
It's been one of those exhausting days of travelling today. Starting early, I got a taxi to the bus station in Leon, and then, picking up breakfast from a street vendor, caught a bus to Managua. A long, hot, sticky bus ride later, I found myself ditched at the side of a main road in central Managua. From here, the only option was a taxi to the airport, where I arrived in plenty of time to get some lunch and check in for my flight.
Travelling on board another lightish aircraft, I once again found myself being weighed in public at the check-in desk, before proceeding through security to the waiting room, where I nervously ate chocolate as the plane was delayed by half-an-hour.
Finally on board, we were soon on our way, and after a scheduled stop in Bluefields, we arrived an hour and a half later on Big Corn Island, seventy kilometres off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Not wanting to stay on Big Corn Island, it was a race in a taxi across the island to the port, where I could get a boat to the
less visited and more tranquil Little Corn Island (not that Big Corn Island was hectic, but having roads, it was certainly more developed).
Arriving at the port in plenty of time to fit in with the rather lax twice daily boat timetable, I then had a good hour or so of waiting around, before we were finally off, on the rough half-hour crossing to Little Corn. Reaching my destination, I was greeted on the pier by a guy who worked for one of the recommended beach hut resorts, and wanting to stay somewhere semi-nice in my final week, I went to have a look at the little beach huts on offer, a ten minute walk from the pier. Surrounded by sandy paths and palm trees, and only a few metres from the beach, I didn't need too much persuasion to stay at one of the huts, and rather tired, I dropped my things off before heading to the freezing cold outside shower to freshen up before dinner.
The dutch girls were also having dinner at the hostel along with three english folk who they'd picked up along the way, and so I had a pleasant evening catching up
with them and playing cards, before heading back to my hut, where my good night's sleep was frequently interrupted by sounds that seemed to be coming from all around (that were most likely just branches from trees and crabs and lizards scurrying around in dead leaves, but it was still scary)!
Day 229: 'Discovering diving'
I've tried diving before, and to be honest, I didn't really like it. None the less, I thought I'd give it a second shot, and having had a leisurely morning, I head down to the dive shop and before I knew it, had been kitted out in a wetsuit and buoyancy control devide and was waddling down to the shore. After a rather uninspiring hour under water praticing breathing/finding my breathing thingamy if I lose it, and putting on and emptying my mask underwater, we returned to the shore and climbed aboard a boat, heading out to an actual dive site, where I might get to see something more exciting than dead lobsters and litter on the sea bed.
The open water dive was quite spectacular. As well as an abundance of tropical fish, we also saw a turtle in the
distance and a couple of nursing sharks. Getting the hang of maintaining a neutral bouyancy was proving quite difficult to master however and I frequently found myself either sitting on the ocean floor, else floating a few too many metres above it. Still, I guess that'll come with practice.
Back at base, I embraced the timetable that goes with tropical living, having an early dinner and early night, ready to start my PADI open water diving course the next day.
Day 230: Back to school (again....I'm sure I'm doing this too often!)
I got up super-early this morning to have a read of my coursebook before heading to the dive shop for eight-thirty. Unfortunately, rather than a happy morning swimming with the fishes (in a nice way, not a sinister way), along with the Canadian couple taking the course with me, I had a rather dull morning in the hot and sticky classroom, watching videos and taking tests.
Fortunately, things started looking up in the afternoon, when we learnt about our diving equipment and then finally hit the water again. Sadly, it was just a shallow water practice session, so once again, we were swimming
around on the ocean floor close to shore amongst debris of dead crustaceans, taking off various bits of equipment and practicing maintaining a neutral bouyancy.
I arrived back at base just as it was starting to get dark and feeling quite ill after one too many gulps of seawater, I soon retired to bed without even bothering with dinner.
Day 231: Classroom tedium and out on the open water once more
Following much the same routine as yesterday, I was up early studying again today before hitting the diveshop to finish off the tedious videos and written tests. Fortunately, by lunchtime, all the theory work was done, and we found ourselves once more waddling down to the shallow water to finish off our practical skills and swallow a few more gallons of sea water.
Fortunately, by about four o'clock, we were due a break in the tedium and were taken out for another open water dive at a different site. Again we saw lots of wierd and wonderful tropical fishies, as well as a giant eagle ray hiding in the sand.
Back at base, I was again home just before dark (just as well
given the lack of lighting on the island), and this time was determined to have dinner before bed. Having showered, I was just heading out along the sand footpaths, torch in hand, trying not to tread on any of the hundreds of crabs scurrying everywhere, when I saw a log moving across the path in front of me. More than a little bit scared, I stayed rooted to the spot, as I followed the length of the log, which could more accurately be referred to as a boa constrictor, round to its head, which was parallel with my feet. Fortunately, the snake past without paying any attention to me, but it has to be said, that I was slightly concerned for a couple of minutes. I continued on my way, getting an uninspired but huge plate of spaghetti at a local restaurant, before heading back to bed.
Day 232: PADI certified at last
This morning I had to get up super-early to complete the written exam for the open water course, which had been handed out to us the day before. Having done all the theory classes, I completed it without too much difficulty, before heading to
the dive shop where we marked our exams (98%, thanks), and hit the water again to finish off a few more exercises close to shore.
With all the boring stuff out the way, we had two more open water dives to complete and a few exercises to do in the open water before completing the course. We completed our first dive, bobbing around underwater amongst lots of tropical fish, before heading on to our second.
Our final dive proved to be slightly more eventful than those previous. Not only did we see sting rays and sharks again, but we also saw a local spear fishing underwater with snorkel gear. It turns out that this probably isn't the best thing to be doing around sharks, since the blood in the water turned the giant fishies a bit stir crazy, as the normally placid creatures started circling us, getting a little too close for comfort. The final straw came when the fishing boat's anchor turned out not to be so anchored after all, and nearly took out one of our diving companions as the boat dragged it along damaging the coral en route. Our dive instructor went up to the
surface and words were had!
With the final dive coming to an end, we had all just made it back on board the boat when someone spotted a load of dolphins not too far from the boat. Return to shore was abandoned as everyone put their snorkels and flippers back on and dived right back in the sea to swim with the dolphins. I didn't manage to get too close, but it was fun all the same, and as the pod swam off, we all boarded once more and head back to shore to complete some paperwork for our PADI license.
Never wanting to see a flipper or oxygen tank again, or at least not for a day or two, I needed some respite and so joined the rest of the island on the baseball pitch on the other side of the island (twenty minute walk). It turns out that Sunday afternoons are sacred on Little Corn, with most things closing to allow everyone to attend the weekly tournements. A chidren's match was in full swing when I got there, and having picked up some coconut bread and a drink on my way to the game, I sat
and watched for a while, relaxing and recovering from my long few days of diving.
Back at base, I showered and had dinner before packing up my things ready to get an early boat in the morning. Although I'm glad I did the open water course, I haven't had much time to relax or hang out with everyone else, which seems a bit of a shame now since it's such a beautiful island. Maybe I'll just have to come back!
Day 233: Back to the real world via Big Corn
It was another mission of a day travelling again today. Up early, I was at the pier in plenty of time to catch the seven o'clock boat to Big Corn Island. After a bumpy ride, I took a taxi to the airport in the faint hope that I'd be able to get the earlier flight rather than having to wait until three o'clock. Sadly it was all booked up, and ditching my luggage, I went for a walk around the island (cutting across the airstrip that ran through it's centre), spending much of my day sleeping on the beach, interspersed with occasional visits to the local
cafe for drinks and a vegetarian coconut curry.
Back at the airport a little later, I participated in the usual weighing and bag searching protocols, before being being allowed to board, and soon enough we were flying back towards the mainland and Managua airport.
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